Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: November 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Out of Order – we are.

As part of the London theatre carrot that might be in a place that it shouldn’t be right now I want to see as much local, new, fresh and exciting theatre as I can. With that in mind I popped off to The Intimate last night to see The Space Behind the Couch’s Out of Order. This is a two-hander written and directed by Beren Belknap (and performed by him, and teched by him) and performed by James MacGregor and Gabriel Marchand.

What happened to me last night was directly influenced by the week of pure theatre magic I have experienced in London. What happened to me broke my heart.

Beren, this is not a review of your work. This is a heartfelt response to the horrible way we are forced to make theatre in this country. And to be honest, I don’t even know where to start. When I was in London everyone referred to me as a playwright. This is a title I have never allowed myself to have, even though I have actually written quite a few plays. We all call ourselves theatre makers here. That’s because we always have to do everything. We are not really allowed to specialise, to be one thing. We can’t. Who will direct the plays if we just write them? What will we direct if we are just directors? Why does a brilliant performer like Nicola Hanekom have to write, direct and perform the things she makes? In London nobody has heard the term theatre maker.

Last night I got so angry Beren. I got angry that you have to do everything. I got depressed that you had to be a theatre maker instead of a writer, or a director, or a performer. I got sad when I thought about a process you needed and did not have the luxury of accessing. Imagine if you had had somebody older and experienced to be your mentor. Imagine if you had had the time to develop your script. Imagine if you and your actors had been able to play around for a couple of months, find things, throw things out, explore, develop the work. Imagine what could have happened then.

Things happen in such a rush here, and we are in such a hurry to get things in product form, in front of a tiny audience for such short little runs. We have no time. We have no money. We have no support. We piss on our own batteries here, because there’s nowhere else to piss.

Out of Order is such a brilliant title. We are Out of Order. Our theatre is Out of Order.

So, I want to congratulate you Beren for making theatre under these conditions. You shouldn’t have to. It shouldn’t be this hard, and this thankless.

Here’s what I thought about the piece. In my opinion Out of Order is a brilliant idea, with brilliant things in it and two brilliant performers, but it is not ready. It is not a product yet. It looks like it is, because there are the fab technicals and animations and set, but it isn’t. And for me, what was a potentially coherent, hilarious and outrageous piece of historic fantasy, Goon show style, was marred by one tiny mistake that permeated the piece. This was the dumb Afrikaner. The dumb Afrikaner is a bit of a racist idea, and it needs better treatment, either from a characterisation point of view, or from a language point of view, or from an ideological point of view. I was uncomfortable that the Afrikaans character was just a dumb Afrikaner (whose actual Afrikaans was not good), and that the kommandant spoke to his men in dumb Afrikaans accented English. The English character had so much to him; he was mad, and a coward, and a traitor, and filthy mouthed. He was a character. And he spoke in his mother tongue.

There is so much that is brilliant about the notion of this piece. At a time when the Boer war offerings of Deon Opperman laud Afrikanerdom and sow division, there is huge space for a different look, a fantastical reinterpretation of it all, and one that has the hope of the message of Out of Order. What will help make the message clear is if the Afrikaans character is not simply the dumb Afrikaner, but more. Someone we care about. Someone who deserves more than an accent and silly mispronunciations.

Beren, I think you are amazing, and brave and creative and talented. I think that Out of Order deserves time, and thinking about, and a bit of process. I keep thinking about War Horse, and how its creators spent 18 months developing it. I think about your performers, who would shine so much more brightly, and confidently, with more discovery time; more rehearsal time. And I imagine you, the writer, or director, with only one job at a time, being able to pour everything into that specialist thing. I wish that for you. And for all of us damn theatre makers.

Homeward bound

Beware; indulgent self reflection below.

Can you have post production blues after a three day working process? If it goes so brilliantly and the connections are instant and deep I think you can.

In a day completely separate from this last week’s work, I spent yesterday with my best friend from school; a four hour Lebanese lunch in Camden and then a home visit with husband and children of best friend from school. So completely lovely. We went into the restaurant in daytime and when we left at 4pm it was the middle of the night. I am still not used to that.

I am preparing my head for being at home. I can’t wait to be with Big Friendly and Gally and Chassie. I am excited to share my stories with my beautiful friends. And I want to carry this energy and feeling for and around my work. I am going to need help. The energy here is what helps make all things theatre possible. But I have a rather British theatre carrot dangling in front of my Cape Town nose. Let’s do shit.

Living London Theatre

I have no idea how to explain my week here in words. Every day from early to late has been so full of inspiration, learning, excitement, belonging, strangeness, support, encouragement, passion, laughing, and achievement. I have seen brilliant theatre (War Horse, Comedy of Errors, One Man, Two Guvnors) and worked with extraordinary people. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith directed the 10 minute extract of The Tent, with the amazing cast of Doraly Rosa, Olayinka Giwa, Richard Cordery, David Webber, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Chris Brandon.

The National Theatre Studio family of Mark, Sarah, Matthew, Rebecca, Sophie, John and Racheli made sure that nothing was impossible and showered us with love and attention. Clare (who works at The National Theatre but was deeply involved in the project) was heroic. Lucas, whose dream this whole project was, was unbelievable; proud, happy, emotional. So was Carol, from the Arterial Network.

We six writers were treated like stars. It was unbelievable. I believe that this is only the beginning of the project. Our plays are all going to live beyond this moment. I am very excited. I am turning my head (a little reluctantly) to home, and trying to think how to become as good there.

War Horse, London, National Theatre Studio

There is a reason why War Horse has gone mainstream and is sold-out and is becoming a franchise with productions in London, On Broadway, Canada and more coming soon. It’s because is is mind-blowingly brilliant and I cannot believe how lucky I was to have seen it tonight. Yes, the story is so moving, and yes it is the perfect way to show the horror of war, but it has an animal which is a puppet as its lead character. Can you imagine how hard that is to pull off? And it works exactly because after seconds, you are so committed to the heart and soul of this creature you live every breath it takes. So, War Horse suspends your disbelief. And that is theatre. When that happens it is how it is supposed to be.

It is also that brilliant because it started out as an idea that was then allowed to flourish and was cultivated by the National Theatre Studio. It took years. Can you imagine? But that is what the National Theatre Studio does; gives space and money to artists to explore their ideas. Can you believe it? I am wallowing in proper theatre heaven here.

On our tour of The National this afternoon we went onto the set of a production running in the medium sized, proscenium arch theatre. The Veil is set in a crumbling Irish mansion. In an entrance hall that the audience cannot see are tables set with tiny props; a nail set, glasses. The back doors have fake moss underneath them, for the actors. I almost sobbed my heart out at this.

I haven’t slept. I am tired and emotional and completely over excited. Tomorrow there is more. I can hardly believe it.

Have technology will travel

I am still awe struck every time I haul out my lappie at the airport and connect to the world. I am at the departure gate, ready (I am a teeny bit early) to go to London and do the dramaturgy workshop at the National Theatre Studio. I know, I know. I can’t stop going on about it, but I feel so lucky, and flippen honoured and very proud. Thanks for the love, support, beautiful words and all the good vibes sent my way. See you on the other side.

Transcendent Tori Amos

I can’t write a review about the show that we exposed ourselves to last night. It is beyond ‘reviewing’ for me. Tori was extraordinary. It was a privilege to watch, but more, listen to this woman, her piano and keyboard. And the thing I loved the most was her absolute confidence to just do that, no more. No tricks, no tracks, no gags, no things flying in or out. Just her, her amazing voice, genius piano playing, strange curved mouth and awesome music. Thank you for ending your tour with us here last night.

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